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Mohammed ben Sulayem, FIA President talks with Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner and Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing
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Formula 1 Bahrain March testing
Special feature

How F1’s political battles raged on through the winter

The fallout from Abu Dhabi kept Formula 1 in the headlines for all the wrong reasons over the off-season. But wider global events have also brought their own challenges as F1 prepares for its new era to begin

At the end of the longest season in Formula 1 history, which finished less than two weeks before Christmas, the paddock felt in need of a real break. December 2021 was always going to bring a big shift for F1’s political landscape, with the end of Jean Todt’s tenure as FIA president and the start of a new regulations cycle. But few could have predicted how much would change between the last race of 2021 and the first of 2022 as controversy on track, political tension off it, and the outbreak of war resulted in some seismic shifts.

F1’s news cycle never really stopped through the winter. Fans eagerly – sometimes too eagerly – wanted updates from the FIA regarding race director Michael Masi’s future amid the fallout from the 2021 Abu Dhabi finale. Lewis Hamilton’s future even seemed in doubt after the fashion of his title defeat left him “disillusioned” with F1, according to Mercedes chief Toto Wolff. Uncertainty loomed.

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